Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I masticate, you masticate, we masticate!

I have a new best friend. Her name is MK. She is Moroccan - and 10 years old. Little MK came to the Netherlands with her mom in April this year. She could not speak a word of English. She could however speak Arabic, French and Spanish. She picked up the language quickly, as children do, and now converses casually in English and can also say a few things in Dutch, with near-perfect accent. It's unbelievable.

So her mom has asked me to help with her English development. I don't speak down to her, she really is incredibly bright (or is it just that all children soak up information so easily?). She's come from a very conservative household in Tangier to the far more liberal culture of the Netherlands, which has opened her eyes (and her mother's) fast. Even so, she is still very naive compared to other children of her age.

Shortly after dinner on Saturday, MK was told to get ready for bed. As she was leaving, the adults carried on with the banter around the table which at that stage was focussed on (of all things) how well do you really need to chew your food. Now, every time I have an opportunity to use this word, I use it. It's funny. It gets a reaction. A lot of people don't know it, and it sounds like something else. So, in my usual unthinking mode, I announced that it's "always important to masticate". This got the desired reaction - one guy laughed, Mills called me out for being a show-off, MK's mom wanted to know what it meant.

MK stopped on her way up the stairs and with a proud grin, loudly proclaimed, "I masticate! You masticate! We masticate!"

I shrivelled.
Mills glared at me.
MK's mom and her partner tried not to make a big deal of it, while at the same time tried to focus her on other tasks, in the hope that she would soon forget this word.

Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

What is it about children that makes them pick up - immediately - on the words that they shouldn't? Seriously, I had thrown tons of words at her over a friendly game of scrabble earlier that afternoon and THIS was the one she chooses to commit to memory? How do you explain to a young innocent girl that this is just a silly word that she really doesn't need to remember and that she really shouldn't shout out in the playground, because it sounds like another word which is not so silly, which some of her classmates probably already know and will either get her into trouble or laughed at because they sound so similar. Omigod, please forget that word. Instantly!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

HelLA, baby

It's been a while. I know. Again. Sorry.

So. I started a new job. I'm travelling 3 hours a day to work, but I love the new job so it's worth it. It helps that they flew me to LA to meet the team that I'm currently working with on a daily basis (well, on daily rotation, considering that they get into work at 6pm my time). I was in the land of fake buildings, fake boobs and Californication. I got to meet a few schlebs, which was quite cool. Sort of. And I can confidently state this much - Michael Jackson isn't dead. He has multiplied and is strutting his white-socked stuff for tourists, on every block of Hollywood Boulevard.

My new boss also got to learn that I'm a klutz. This is something I had managed to keep hidden throughout the hiring process, largely by ensuring that my former employer made no mention of previous exploits in the flammable/falling/breaking department(s).

The first clue for my new boss was when I dropped a colleague's wedding pictures in the soy sauce over our sushi dinner. Why, why, why would you bring these out after everyone (i.e. me) has had a few glasses of wine? Especially as I had spent all evening politely refraining from dousing myself - or my colleagues - in condiments. My coordination basket was empty. I didn't know there was going to be a surprise test at the end of the meal. She put the pictures away very quickly after that. Whoops.

The next day, in front of other colleagues, I managed to walk into a glass door. Not too spectacularly - I thought it needed a push when in fact it needed a pull. But my pushing (crunching) into it apparently jammed the lock mechanism, leaving us stranded out there until someone came from the other side to release it. It was during this awkward wait that my boss stated the obvious. "Omigod... you're a klutz."

Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing.

So, by the time we got to the set of NCIS (I love this ensemble show. Like, totally, LOVE NCIS) he was getting an inkling of what I was capable of, especially as the first thing I did was fall over a prop. Who puts them in the middle of the floor anyway? I got to watch some of the filming which was really cool and spent a large amount of time pretending to look professional and aloof, while in my head I was jumping up and down and screaming "OH MY GAAAWD!" like every contestant on Extreme Home Makeover.

Everyone was talking and getting on with their work, I was standing out of the way when Mark Harmon insisted that I pull up a chair. There weren't any chairs remaining so he insisted I sit in his cast chair. You know, those high ones with the 'talent' names printed on them. I didn't put up too much of an argument. My internal monologue had gotten over the hysterical screaming and had now gone into a muted whisper of "omigod, Mark Harmon's chair. I'm sitting in Mark Harmon's chair."

Then with a *crack* my internal monologue changed to, "omigod, I just broke Mark Harmon's chair."

As surreptitiously as possible, I looked down. Yup. There was now a crossbar hanging at an angle below my feet. That hulk of a man sits on the chair every day, but it breaks when I reverently place one butt cheek on it. Great. I didn't move again, praying to god that the chair wouldn't completely collapse. At least not while the cast were hanging around. Finally, they went back to filming and I slipped off the chair, relieved that it was still (at least visibly) in one piece. I diligently pointed it out to a crew member, who quickly reassembled where necessary. Easily solved.

I spent about 3 hours on that set, talking to cast and crew, and I couldn't tell you what was discussed. All I can remember is my internal horror repeating over and over again, "omigod, I just broke Mark Harmon's chair. Please don't collapse. Please don't collapse..."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Screw the shrimps

It's been a while (again), but there's been good reason for that. I just have a few nights of sleep and some correspondence to catch up on now. In the meantime, I had to bring your attention to this little treat. Yes, it's dated to the beginning of this month, but some pearlers are just timeless.

On a recent visit to Mexico, the Crown Prince of The Netherlands gave what he thought to be a erudite speech:
'Let me conclude by giving you a Mexican proverb: Cámaron que se duerme se lo lleva la chingada, or in English: a shrimp that sleeps gets carried by the tide,' the prince said.

However, the translator used the word chingada rather than corriente - so the prince actually said the shrimp got screwed.

To make things worse, while chingada is considered everyday language in most of South America, in Mexico it is considered extremely vulgar, a fact the Argentine translator was not apparently aware of."

Poor Prince Willem-Alexander... he thought that he was being all philosophical, but instead he was bamboozling his audience with misdirected connotations worthy of a script from 'Allo 'Allo.

Not only did he screw the shrimps, but he insulted them while doing it. Perhaps even more embarrassing is that his wife is of Argentine origin. It really does seem that someone on the prince's team should've picked that up earlier.

Political whoopsie, to say the least.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Meet Priscilla

I'm getting quite good at this cycling lark. I cycle to the station and back every day in the rain, sun or wind (the former and the latter more often than the mid-der). I hop on and off a still-moving bike with confidence... an amazing progression considering that I used to stop my bike, disembark and turn it around a corner manually. Now I love my bike, I talk to her. I've started calling her Priscilla - Prissy Priscilla - because I think she likes it.

When I first arrived in the country, I thought that Dutch women had an aversion to make up and hair stylists, now I realise that there's just no point. If you're cycling (no matter how far) chances are your hair is going to be mussed up and your make up smudged due to the afore-mentioned wind, rain and related watering eyes. So now I'm the same. Don't bother with straigthening the hair, get the station, give it a brush (optional) and do the make up on the train (again, optional).

I park my bike in the multi-storey parking lot and yes, I have lost it on ocassion. It's fine if you remember which level and on which side you parked. At least then you know where to start looking. I generally try to park on the same side, on the same level and try to remember which light/sign/distinguishing mark is closest. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and I forget. Fortunately, by the time I get home in the evenings the bikes have thinned out a bit, so I have less options to wander past before I get to mine. There is no reassuring 'bloop bloop' or tail lights flashing as you hit the remote key. I've found that calling out her name doesn't help either. Some people don their bikes with fake flowers, or paint it with flourescent colours. I can't say it's a bad idea.

Last night I got home to find that someone hadn't bothered to actually find a rack for their bike. They were clearly in too much of a hurry to actually park, so they just took their bike and RAMMED it in next to mine. When I got back to the my station, I found that Prissy was being indecently molested by some vulgarity. I had to wrench them apart and console my poor traumatised bike while I untangled the bike stand from the pedal (which had been wedged due to unnecessary roughness).

Once this was complete, I was free to go... but not before I took the offending bike (still locked by the back wheel - but this doesn't mean you can't pick it up and walk) and moved to some where completely different. Different level, different side, different rack.

Moral of the story? People park like dicks whether they're on a bike or in a car. Bikes are just easier to move.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What constitutes discrimination?

1. In the darkness of winter, some colours are harder to see at night. That's why the council of Limburg has decided to donate safety vests to refugees of a darker hue.

2. Then, this column brought my attention to the fact that some gravitationally-challenged folks are claiming they are targetted because of their weight.

Sooo... are the Dutchies discriminating against darkies in Limburg? And... should victimisation of fatties count as discrimination?

I know how I feel on the latter and am ambivalent about the former. I don't have an objection to safety vests being given to the immigrants. What makes it an issue is that the people of Limburg have actually specified that only black immigrants will receive this freebie. Completely disregarding the fact that most people - black, white, local or otherwise - wear black or dark colours in winter. I'm about as pasty pale as you can get, but in the middle of winter all you can see of me are my eyeballs - as the rest is smothered in hat, gloves, scarf, coat, boots etc. So I guess, well-intended and misguided though it may have been, I think the Limburgers discriminated.

Now onto issue number two. The one that I feel is black-and-white. I am a fattist. Or a weightist. Or an adipophobe (new word I'm trying out... "fear of excessive adipose tissue"). I really struggle to sympathise with the obese. I know that some people are just bigger, much bigger. Some people have hormonal imbalance and medical reasons for why they rapidly gain weight and then cannot lose it. But I think for most, weight gain is something that is just too much effort to consider fighting. A former colleague of mine is 5'6 and weighs over 100kg. He constantly complained about his discomfort, his heart pains and his sweating. He's 28. One particular meal I saw him put away - fast - was a full plate of fries topped with 500g of minced meat and cheese. Then he would tell us that he didn't know what to do about getting healthier. Lose the fries and try eat a tomato or two, for a start.

Weight you can do something about. Skin colour (Michael Jackson aside), you can't.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here comes another airline rant

I just booked our tickets for Christmas in the UK - had a look at a few different websites and decided that jet2 was the most competitive. I'm not stupid. I know that's not going to be final cost, but yes please, I'll take two for Christmas Eve, return.


120 base fare, times two.
Plus taxes. Times two.

And before you know it, you're up to 388 total.
Right, now we need to check in a bag - it being Christmas, and us hoping to bring home a loot. Just the one bag between the two of us. That'll be 26 euro extra. For wanting to bring luggage on holiday.

Then we get charged for the option of online check-in. 11 euro for the both of us. But wait, it's not actually an option... it's just a charge. They did away with their front desk, AND they're charging for the lack of service. Suck on that!

That's 212.50 pp, in case you're keeping count.

Oh but wait... are you wanting to sit down on the flight? Cos that'll be another 6 euros per actual seat (no ma'am, sitting on one bum cheek will not half that cost... snigger). So add another 24euros return for the - mandatory - luxury of sitting down.

Before you know it, the tickets of 120 pp have shot up to 224,50 pp. Oh, plus 10.50 from the credit card company and... always love this one... 16 euros booking cost - for using their website and paying for my own paper and ink when I have to print the obligatory boarding pass (confirmation code can be found hidden somewhere on page four, after several pages of legal jargon, full colour pictures and adverts encouraging me to book affliated hotels, rent cars and buy orphans from Bulgaria).

Low cost, s'foot. That said, the total cost was still lower than KLM (a.k.a. Satan's Porthole).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

News snippets

Snippet of news from the Netherlands: Massive drug bust
However, my favourite part of the story is not the amount of houses that were searched or subsequent percentage of plantations uncovered. It's the following paragraph:
Police moved in at 7.45am, placing the Kastelenbuurt neighbourhood under emergency rule and only allowing people to leave their homes if they had to go
to work or take children to school.
Emergency rule doesn't sound so scary... Sort of sounds like normal everyday life, really. So you can't leave your house, unless you have to do some errands. Probably a bit inconvenient, but police tend to cordone off everything within 3km of any incident so it's not unusual to trip over or around chevron tape on your way to the shops anyway.

Another thing Dutchies don't do right... Strike. Sounds threatening right? This one could've been a real bitch for me, seeing as it already takes me 90 minutes to get to work by public transport. But don't worry, the court said NO. So the employees shrugged and agreed to get back to work.

How bout that? I don't know whether to be proud of a functioning legislative system or whether to send over some toyi-toyers to show them how to bring a country to its knees. To be honest, it was going to be piss poor strike - intended from 7 to 8.30am. Seeing as most people only start work at about 9.30, it probably wouldn't have been so crippling.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Since I was about 17 I've looked older than I was. Or people have just thought I looked older than I was. Whatever, either way the only time I got asked for ID was when I was standing with particularly young looking friends. It was cool. Everyone wants to look older than they are... when they're a teen.

Ten years (or so) later, it's not so cool. I've just started a new job and am getting to know the new colleagues. I was talking about being in my late-twenties and the big 30 looming in the next few years. "Really," said a co-worker without so much as a smirk, "I thought you were at least 33, or closer to Nellie's age!"

Nellie is 37. Are you kidding me, bitch?

So that's what prompted me to spend excessive amounts on Nivea products earlier today. Standing with my shoulders slumped in the facial product isle, Mills recognised that I needed a supportive hug. Do I really look like I'm in my mid-thirties? Is it these dark bags under my eyes? I thought I'd be able to hit thirty before I had to buy eye cream or wrinkle-free anything.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Greek woman don't mess around

I have a friend affectionately known as The Greek (which is not such an effective nickname when actually visiting her in Athens). She is gorgeous - great figure, beautiful olive skin and dark hair... brains, scathing tongue and wit to balance it all off.

And I just can't help picturing her in this story, reported on BBC website. Although, 'my' Greek would have been more likely to castrate the man with a scrotum-shrinking comment. A less physical, but equally scorching, tactic - and one that I have had the delight of witnessing on occassion over the years. Good times.

Back to the story on the Beeb... I love the fact that the woman is reported as the 'attacker'. It couldn't be construed as an 'alleged attack', or possibly, a 'retaliation'. I know some women can be slightly, um, expressive.. but I don't know many women, all nationalities considered, who fire off precious cocktails as liquid ammunition with no provocation whatsoever.

But my favourite part is that the loving father claims his innocent, assailed son did nothing to provoke it. Hands up anyone (anyone?) who buys that. Sorry to be that person who lumps all people of a certain gender, of a certain age bracket, of a certain nationality in one basket, but I've seen and dealt with enough drunk pommie prats on holiday (Red Light District anyone?) to call shenanigans on that. Slappers back home may be up for some over-the-bra action, but that's not going to fly with the locals on the Med.

Unlikely that we'll find out what actually happened (and I don't care that much to actually try to follow the story further), but here on my top three conjectures:
  1. He was drunkenly harrassing anything with ovaries, she flipped her drink on him and (as she claims) stalked off. One of her friends (or a fellow harrassee) saw the opportunity to further ignite the situation and took a lighter to his loins.
  2. He (the attackee) was so persistant in his groping, or eventually did something so reprehensible, that she threw him with a cocktail of molotov consequences.
  3. She flipped her drink on him in front of his mates (they tend to travel in packs) and stalked off. In a drunken attempt to save face, he tries to turn the public rebuffal into a party trick and sets fire to his own crotch.

Personally, I'm more inclined to the third option.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Girly Gumption

A few weeks ago, I was in London. While there, I was attempting to get from my lodgings in NW to central London. The easiest route was via the Jubilee Line. What I wasn't counting on was getting stuck in throngs of (drunken)(sweaty) Ashes cricket fans as they left after the day's play.

What I also wasn't counting on was the Jubilee line being closed to an unfortunate 'body falling onto the tracks' (read: drunken cricket fan), and me being stuck on an underground platform with several thousand Australian and English sporting fans rehashing the good, the bad and the ugly of the second test. Now would probably be a good time to indicate that the function I was going to had a pink theme. So I was wearing pink nail polish, pink accessories and pink lipstick and killer heels. Fitting right in with the play-weary cricket fans.

With the Jubilee line closed, I filed out with the rest of the people on the platform and tried to figure out a Plan B. I calculated that following the crowds wouldn't help. There were just so many people trying to get back into London. So I walked in the complete opposite direction. And walked and walked and walked. I was now over an hour late for the start of my intended party and so gatvol that I figured the first cabbie I saw, I was getting. Unfortunately, two other gentlemen just in front of men were having similar thoughts about their own trip into London.

This is where Mills tells me I am pathetic. Because this is where I consciously decided to play up my "me, girl... lost" *blink*flutter*flutter*. I struck up a conversation. They were British and obviously picked up on my SA accent quickly.

Did I live in London, they asked? Me - hell no (truth), in fact it's my first time to London (bare-faced lie). I have no idea where I am (half-truth). We established that they were also trying to get into Central London, not too far from where I was going (not that I would know that, of course... it being my first time into London and all). They suggested that we share a cab - if we could find one - into town. I concurred.

A short while later, the first cab appeared in the distance. I was not the only to spot it, unfortunately. Fortunately, I was the only one dressed to kill in heels. With a coy flick of my hair, I made sure I got the cabbie's attention. The cabbie, in turn, made sure to blatantly ignore the three pissed cricket louts in the process of jaywalking to his cab.

True to my word, I asked the cab driver to wait for my two new found friends. Mostly because they were nice enough blokes, but also because I was pretty sure I would get out of paying the cab fare if we travelled together.

What? It's true. I knew it, they knew, the driver knew it. I put up with their touristic spurts of information as we drove through the London West End. Wow, really? The theatre district? Cool.

I got door-to-door service (well, technically streetwalking-to-door service), and they got to perve a little bit longer before I got out of the cab. I was younger than them and dolled up to the nines. They were wearing beer goggles and happy for some eye candy after waiting on a smelly platform for a tube that didn't arrive. See, it worked out for everyone.

Mills thinks that this story is pathetic - I am pathetic - for consciously flaunting myself as a naive and helpless damsel. I have no such compunction. To (mis)quote a wise ol' friend... sometimes it's handy to play up to the type cast.

"Me, girl, lost" got me to my party much faster than "Me. Woman. Independent." ever would've.
We all know it's true.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In sssshort

This is for Bruski...

Amsterdam woman finds snake in toilet

A woman living in Central Amsterdam got the shock of her life on Wednesday morning when she lifted the lif of the toilet in her home, to find a 50cm brown and orange snake, The Parool reports.

The snake, which was still in the toilet after she returned from alerting the police, is thought to be a corn snake, which is not poisonous. Cornsnakes are common in the US and it is a complete mystery how it ended up in a city centre flat, The Parool says.

The reaction from my colleagues was great. Especially as they recognised the snake to be the same that I was holding in one of my profile pictures.

Don't get me started

I have a problem. It's one that other people won't and don't share... it's that bad.

I feel contrite simply thinking about typing it.

It's more than an addiction. It's not a fad. It's not something I'm likely to grow out of. In fact, it can only get worse. Mills has tried to control me, out of love and concern, but he has realised that It is bigger than him. He has called for support, he has tried to reason. It is financially draining, it is not easy to procure, but when I do get It, it's good.

So good.

So good, that I feel ashamed.

My closest friends and family know about It. I've told them about my compulsion and they've seen it for themselves. It's not pretty. They try to make light of the situation, but I know they discuss it behind my back. I can see their supportive smiles that quiver ever so slightly at the corners of their mouths, out of concern - and a little bit of mirth.

It is Tupperware. There, I said it. It's out. Go ahead, judge me. From some of the reactions I receive, I think prostituting myself in the Red Light District would be more socially acceptable.

I love Tupperware. I am as far from a Domestic Treasure as you are likely to get, never knew the 1950s Good Housewife regulations, and yet I still love Tupperware. Please don't insult me by thinking about Euro-buster mass-produced soft containers that melt and buckle and stain after three weeks... I am not talking about the plastic shit you get off the Pick 'n Pay bottom shelf.

I'm talking about name-brand 30-euros-a-piece high-class plastic. Yes, it's bad. Even when people keel over, derisively clutching their throats as they choke on the very thought of spending so much on 'a piece of plastic', I find myself earnestly justifying the expense...

I mean come on people, there isn't a mother out there who doesn't still use that Tupperware container/mixer/baking bowl that was first purchased when you were in diapers. You know it's true. Tupperware lasts.

And it's (largely) unbreakable. I don't care if you have to sit through a Tupperware demonstration to get it. It's worth it.


I told you not to let me get started.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm back

Last week: my new manager mentioned that she had heard vicious rumours about me being a chaotic whirlwind of distruction. But as yet, I haven't broken anything at my new office. Why is that - she asked me, slightly nervously.

My theory, I explained, is that I concentrate in new surroundings. But don't worry - in a few weeks time I'll be smashing shelves with a glance.

The next day: I fell down a flight of stairs.
The day after: I broke a glass in the kitchen.

Then, this evening, at home: I was on the phone to my brother when my mobile rang - this was urgent, I explained to Bruski, as I was expecting a call from my Tupperware rep.

Without ending his call, I held the cordless (landline) away from my ear and picked up the mobi with my other hand. Multitasking = me.

Discussed drop-off logistics and payment with Tupperware rep. As I'd paid by bank transfer, I promised to check that my monthly earnings had gone through to her account. I put down the mobi phone and picked up the other. The line was dead. No tone at all.

That was when I realised that I had terminated both my mobile and landline calls and was now trying to talk into my bank card reader. It has digits on it and options to clear and/or OK a numerical selection, so it was a mistake easily made I think. Still, a serious backfire in the co-ord department nonetheless.

I called Bruski again, to apologise for mild brain fart. His first line when he answered was - "I know this is going to be good."

It was.

Koekie is back.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A little Sunday snippet

I've always maintained that there is a definite possibility that a few rugger-buggers might like a grope in the scrum. I think these New Zealander students have helped to strengthen my argument.

How many hockey/football/tennis players would be prepared to play their respective sport in this condition?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back by popular demand*



This is awkward. The same sort of feeling you get when you bump into someone who you have really truly been meaning to contact for a good ol' catch up, but just haven't done so in, oh say, several months (or years).... and when you do finally cross paths in the parking lot with a bag full of MacD, or on the way to do your recycling, or something similarly pressing, you feel inclined to tell them that you actually really did enjoy their company and maybe it would be fun to jol again, but how can you do that without insinuating that you clearly haven't been thinking about them that much because you just haven't needed them in your life lately.

Sort of like that feeling anyway.

The truth is that I haven't had anything to blog about lately. Well, okay. Maybe I have, but I've just been lazy. And - this will shock old colleagues and friends - I actually haven't spent that much time online lately. The weather has been good for a few weeks... yes, folks - the Netherlands has been hit with an unseasonal bout of summer (summer is unseasonal all year round). There have actually been blue skies, gentle breezes and temperatures in the mid-20s.


It's perfectly fitting that the weather should be so good, because true to Koekie's life story.... the start of this 'summer' pretty much exactly corresponds to my employment relocation. I am no longer working just 10 minutes by bike from home, and just 10 minutes from the beach front. Which would've been awesome in this weather. No. As of the beginning of June, I am now working an hour away, in Schiphol (quite literally at the airport), in perfectly airconditioned surroundings with no windows or fresh air. Once I get on the train from Den Haag Centraal at 8am, I do not smell a whiff of unconditioned air until at least 5.30 when I step out from the same said station on return in the evening.

In this country you have to make hay while the sun, quite literally, shines. So I'm not sitting behind this computer any longer this evening.

But I'll be back.

Tot zo!

*Alternative title: "Back due to persistant nagging from family and friends, whose greatest delight is (apparently) wasting work hours on my waffling."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Eurovision build-up: 2009

I know it's been a while, but I finally have something to share. This made my morning as I was avoiding getting ready for work today...

The infamous Eurovision contest is on this weekend. Muchos excitement all round. I'm even attending a party just to watch the show, which largely (and for some reason proudly) consists of badly produced Eastern Block pop stars.

Just in case you've always wondered where talents like Bles Bridges and Steve Hofmeyr got their genes from, here is the entry from the Netherlands. Look past the spandex glitter outfits, look past the lyrics (Shine! Shine! Shine!) and please watch the back up dancers. They're my favourite: http://www.belgovision.com/en/index_f.php?id=5471

I nearly fell off my chair, laughing. Then I watched it again and clapped with pure unadulterated enjoyment. Now that is entertaining.

Unfortunately it looks like the cloggies didn't make it, otherwise I would've definitely been supporting them on Saturday!

Monday, March 30, 2009

How do you respond when..?

At a social function this weekend (read: raucous birthday party), I found myself in two awkward situations.

The first was when I decided to show my newly married friend, who is very excitable about engagements and betrothals, my spiffy glow-in-the-dark nail art. I did this by holding my hand up to her face, similar to how... say... a fiancee might brandish some new jewelry.

LA's face lit up. She inhaled a giant gulp of air and I could hear the squeal forming in the back of her throat, when I realised what she thought I had just tried to tell her*. At the same time, she realised that there was, in fact, no jewelry to brandish. The squeal petered out and her expression went from delighted to bemused, while my hand went from stationary to frantically flapping.

"No, no, no, no... it's not that! Oh god, no. Sorry. Look at the nails.... they glow. In the dark. Um. Not so exciting now, after all of that."

Moving swiftly on.

Later that same night, LA and I had the (dis)pleasure of meeting a Dodgy Old Man. Urrrgh, I get the grils just thinking about him now. Dodgy Old Man was introduced to me, shook my hand and stepped in closer for a few cheek-to-cheek kisses. Now, it may be the Dutch way to greet people with three cheek-kisses (right cheek, left cheek, and right again) - but that's for people that you know and have met before. for people you have just met, you shake hands. Klaar.

Anywho, there's more to this story. So, he gets a few cheek kisses in, when his girlfriend pipes up with, "that's how we met... we went from cheek kisses to french kissing in one action!"


But there's more. They demonstrated this 'action', in case we were having any difficulty trying not to picture it.


LA and I tried to carry on as politely as we could. We got the topic back on to safer ground and he mentioned his daughter. I asked how old she was.

Dodgy Old Man: "She's thirty four."
Dodgy Old Man's GF: "Same age as me!"
Dodgy Old Man: "Except she's five months older."

I had nothing. He's 61, she's 34. I had just seen them snogging for public benefit and now learnt that he might as well be shagging his own daughter. Lost for words, I felt there was nothing to do - except blow the party blower I happened to be holding.


And on that note I walked away. I'm really not sure what the etiquette books would recommend for that situation. What do you think?

* Note: this is not unlike the email I recently sent to Little Big Sis, which - for lack of a better subject - was titled 'Week 11'. Little Big Sis is apparently in a very fertile crowd at the moment and so knows lots of pregnant women - all of whom give her weekly updates, "week 12 through to 36... ".

Little Big Sis initially thought my email was a pregnancy announcement. Sorry to disappoint everyone. I am not engaged and I am not pregnant. Just thought I'd clear that up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Hi. So, it's been a while. Some would say, almost a month. Pathetic. I promise to start blogging more regularly again. I also promised to start going to gym and eat healthier. So... ja. Hmm.

I have no excuses. Things are quiet at work. Turns out people aren't so big on hiring new people when there's a credit crunch/economic crisis/recession/global warming, whatever the papers are calling it. So there aren't many vacancies going, but there are lots of desperate people around. It's not fun - a completely different side to recruitment to what I've been dealing with over the last two years.

When previously job hunters could pick and choose from three job offers at a time, now hiring managers can faff and fart about making a decision between ten top notch candidates for weeks - because they know the applicants will still be there, or if they're not then others just as employable will be.

In other news, I haven't broken anything - on me or any one else - for a while either. Makes for boring blogging. Oh sure, there was the odd glass or two (Mills keeps insisting that we need to purchase a new 'full' set of glasses, but I maintain the mix-and-match look is in this season) but that's nothing new.

Oooh, big news is that we're going to the French Open to watch (hopefully) some of the big boys play in the final weekend. Ticketing opened on March 1 at midnight and Mills and I spent the first three hours of the morning just trying to get onto the website. It was totally worth it. Come Friday 5th June we will be sitting in Phillipe Chatier centre court, hopefully watching Federer or Nadal in the semi-finals. Dear god, please don't let it be that twat Andy Murray. I wish someone would caption one of his 'gun show' poses with, "I am mouse, hear me squeak", preferably complimenting it with a rippling shot of Roger and Rafa on either side. I don't know why, but that twit really grinds my cogs.

Besides the French Open, Mills and I don't have any other big adventures planned for this year. Yet. We definitely need a holiday in the sun somewhere...

Speaking of holidays, I've recently learnt about three places that I would love to be able to say I've been to...

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (in Wales)
Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu(in New Zealand)
And Krungthepmahanakornamornratanakosinmahintarayutthayamahadilokphopnopparatrajathaniburiromudomrajaniwesmahasatharnamornphimarnavatarnsathitsakkattiyavisanukamprasit (in Thailand apparently)

Unfortunately, I can't say any of them. Having only just got the hang of Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein, I don't think I'm going to master those names any time soon. Maybe I could just write about it, once I've been there.

Monday, March 02, 2009


I'm not sure I understand the logic...

I'm not presuming to know these people's life stories, but I'm guessing they're living in a camp because they have no where else to go. They have nothing. The authorities want to relocate them somewhere else. True, it's not nice to relocate. I for one will do pretty much anything to stay in my comfort zone. But I would not burn my home, burn everything I own, in order to protest about moving somewhere else. But I guess that's just me.

So now you still have to move, but the good news is... you have nothing to move. Well played.

In other news, he may be single-handedly destroying our ice caps by endorsing fuel-guzzling motor races to the North Pole and such like, but let's face it... Jeremy Clarkson can write a column. Bless him for adding Joburg to his list of politically incorrect rants.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Helicopters and octuplets

Today, during our morning meeting, an emergency helicopter landed outside our office door. Helicopter was followed by two ambulances, four or five police cars and a fire truck. Naturally, we assumed that there had been yet another accident at our intersection.

But the emergency personnel weren't paying much attention to the tram tracks. In fact, we couldn't find any particular reason for their appearance... until we looked in the other direction, three doors down from our office. People were rushing in and out and we established that someone had hanged themselves. Successfully.

Sad, desperate and a conversation point to say the least. What I couldn't understand was if it was 'just' a hanging (I don't mean to be callous, but as far as death goes there are certainly more violent stories listed in history), what was with all 20-odd cops and paramedics? I can understand that they needed a rescue chopper in case the dude/chick survived with a spinal injury and had to be airlifted to a hospital. But the two other ambulances? Were they each planning on taking a limb or appendage?

Poor bugger.

Moving on. I know I've been particularly bad at blogging regularly... my entries are starting to read like an Adrian Mole (aged 17 and 7months) extract.

March 22: I missed my mother's birthday again. It's hard to remember, especially it's on the same day as actual Mother's Day.
April 12: I am definitely going to write in my diary EVERY DAY...
April 25: I got to work today and realised I was wearing odd socks. Am I losing my mind? Fortunately eccentricity is expected when one is an intellectual and a genius at the same time.

... So, not blogging as regularly as I promised, but today I found something to get me fired up. This woman.

This really irritates me. It is dillusional, irrational or just plain selfish? When I first heard the hoo-hah about her having 8 babies, I thought "poor woman". Now it transpires that she's had 14 - FOURTEEN - children since 2001. I can understand (but cannot relate) to a childless couple wanting children. I can almost understand a single, lonely woman wanting a child to love, nurture and fill a gaping hole in her life (paraphrasing).

I cannot understand a woman having six within less than a decade of each other and then still proceeding with IVF, knowing full well the chances of multiple birth. Is she addicted to labour? Hi doc, I'm back, hook me up with some more of that sweet epidural you do so well.

She is one of the reasons why I do not want children. I don't want to breed while people like her are populating 14-fold. What is your life goal? "Let's just have babies... because we CAN!"
Consequences? What consequences?


Monday, February 16, 2009

Animal euthenasia?

As I type, Miller is trying to hang frames on our wall. I've helping by staying out of the way. Aside from him having to reconstruct one of the frames, it seems to be going smoothly.

On to bigger issues (while Miller hammers away, my participation not required), I learnt of another idiosyncrasy in Dutch bureaucracy this weekend...

Jejo's cat has developed severe bladder infection, gallstones and other ailments (including old age, obesity and having a particularly small penis. Poor bugger). He expressed these ailments by peeing and pooping everywhere around Jejo's apartment. Literally, everywhere. One of the side affects of all these afflictions is that the cat refused to wee where it had already wee-weed. So every part of the flat was being marked.

The vet's diagnosis was not good: medication, tranquilisers, and keeping the cat somewhere isolated for the rest of its life. Apparently it is suffering of something that can only be medicated, not cured, so the best thing is to keep it in a quarantined area and resign yourself to the smell.

Jejo and her boyfriend simply do not have space to designate a whole confined area to kitty litter. Now from my experience, the best decision would be to put this sick pet down with a simple and humane injection. The owners could choose to be present, or not, depending on how close they are to the pet.

But apparently in the Netherlands, you cannot put down pets. They die of old age or illness, but are not put down. If they get too sick, or cannot be cared for any more, they have to be put in a pet 'asylum'. From there, I'm not completely sure what happens. I think the asylum carers just look after them until they die, but I'm guessing... sometimes the pet must get put down. Surely.

Apparently, as an owner, you are not legally allowed to make this decision for your ailing pet. It seems very strange to me - especially in a country that has legalised euthenasia.

So Jejo sent her cat to a dierenasiel this weekend - which I think is more traumatic than putting your pet down. It's almost a case of 'out of sight, out of mind.' Don't you think it's vierd?

After hearing this horror story of a cat-gone-wrong, I've decided that I don't want a pet just yet. The smell would be a bitch to get out of the carpets.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Getting connected

Recently Little Big Sis moved to the arse-end of nowhere - I mean, Limpopo - with her hubby. Obviously, this is a big move for a trendy young couple with two puppies. They had to get used to waking up to beautiful sunrises, drinking sundowners on their farmhouse patio, listening to the cries of the wild...

Anyway, when she's not sipping on G&T's and commiserating about how much she misses sirens and taxi's hooting through the night, Little Big Sis has been trying to get internet connection set up from home. As you might imagine, broadband is not handed out by the local petrol attendant in Limpopo. It took her four months to get a satellite internet connection, but by the sounds of it, she's been successful. She's back online.

Now, switch to the Netherlands. Third most populated country in Europe (after Malta and Monaco, but you knew that of course), hub of business and travel. The Hague, situated right in the middle of the Randstad region - international headquarters of oil conglomerates, EU judicial bodies... fairly central location in terms of first-world living.

And yet, it took us two months to get internet.

First we had to choose a provider - one of the joys of healthy competition. But wait... of the four or five 'competitive' providers, only one actually provides service to our area. In the middle of The Hague. Difficult location perhaps? Does the queen's palace get in the way of the signal?

Okay, so much for choice. We'll go for that one then. Now for a time line...

6th December: request internet and telephone connection. Receive confirmation that our request will be processed 8th January.

30th December: receive confirmation that our signal has been activated. Phone provider to ask if that signal comes with a telephone connection/modem, or should we just shove stripped wires into the back-end of our phone. Book technician appointment for 19th December.

19th January: sit home waiting for technician "between the hours of 11am and 6pm". Would hate to be too specific on this one. Techie arrives, rips hole in wall and informs me that he can't find the right wire to connect our internet up.

20th January: call landlord to request information on general phone set up for apartment block. Landlord yawns and says he's "99% sure that it's somewhere in the grey box downstairs." Thanks Dipshit.

23rd January: call provider to arrange new installation appointment, based on 99% information. Provider says they can't use their system at the moment, but they will call us back "within 5 days" to arrange a new appointment.

30th January: call provider to enquire about the call back we never received. Provider says they have a problem with their system and will have to call back. I get snotty with underpaid service rep and give up hope of getting internet before Easter.

4th February: provider actually calls back to arrange appointment for 8am tomorrow morning. I think it's a hoax call due to promptness of response and immediacy of suggested appointment, but accept anyway.

5th February, 8am: techie arrives, can't find general phone connection in "grey box downstairs" and quotes 400-EUROS for digging up the street in search of missing connection point. I convey quote to landlord. Landlord has a sudden rush of blood to the brain and remembers that there may be another point around the side of the flats, on the outside, behind the bike parking. Maybe. Isn't it just amazing how quoting a large payment can jog the memory?
5th February, 10am: technie locates 'maybe' telecom connection around side of house, re-rips a whole in our wall and within 15 minutes we have internet and landline access.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

The moral of the story? No matter where you live - 50km from the nearest ox-wagon watering hole, or next to Renaissance royal blood in urban overpopulation - you're likely to get the same service.

Globalisation. What a great leveller of the service industry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It's A-LIVE!

I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm back I'm bac.

God, I've missed it. So, despite what you might think, I did not fall off the face of the earth, was not eaten by flesh-chowing sheep and have not run away with Roger Federer (but only because he was in Australia and I wasn't). No, instead I've just been fighting with first-world customer service and bureaucractic bullshit to get telecom connections set up.

It only took two months. We're actually quite delighted to be online today because we were only on our third attempt to book an appointment.

Anyway, short story - back online. Christmas was spent in England and the rest of the time I've been freezing my little tits off in Holland. We are successfully relocated into our new apartment close to the Dutch Queenie's working palace, which can prove slightly inconvenient when she has dignitaries over while I'm on my way to work.

So this is a very uninspired entry simply to say, I'm back baby. I'm back!